Saturday, August 29, 2009

worst decision of my life

I just joined Facebook. I'm not sure how civilization is still functional with FB (as the cool kids call it) in existence. The response time from people's messages are staggeringly fast which leads me to believe that humans who once spent their time working, feeding, and expelling waste, have forsaken all those basic activities for Facebook time. Remarkable.

I know you all told me this already, but I'm still shocked that there's a whole little world in Facebook of which I've been completely ignorant. People I knew in person, people I thought I knew at least, have had these Facebook lives, of which I had no knowledge. Some of my closest friends have had personal goals and aspirations I was unaware of, such as achieving high scores on Bejeweled Blitz.

You think you know someone, right? Then it turns out they're the world's greatest Bejeweled Blitzer or Mafia Warrior and you question whether your entire relationship has been hollow because you were only "face to face" friends who saw each other in person, not Facebook friends who can be in contact 24hrs a day.

Another freaky thing: seeing that two girls you once dates are now friends independently of you and post on each other's Facebook Walls. I have been blind and now, by joining Facebook, the scales have been removed from my eyes and I am sure to fail my first semester of school because I need to update my wall with breaking news such as "I ate a hard boiled egg."

the next episode

I spent three days of driving with my car seat more upright than comfortable in order to fit everything I own into the back seat. Made it from Portland, OR to New Jersey and now it's time to move on. I think back to the other times I've moved to a new city, but the hard part about those moments you want most to record and preserve for posterity is that they are the moments when you have the least free time to sit and write about them.

I left Baltimore in 2004 after living there only a year. But almost everyone I knew was leaving town, too, so it wasn't too hard to say goodbye. I remember my last day I had picked up a U Haul to help my roommate Mandy move her stuff, then I went to Taco Bell with my friends Tim and Kim. I was younger then, so I was more excited than sad. I was sure I'd see everyone again. Five years later and I realize I haven't seen Kim since 2005 or 2006.

I left Boston in 2007 after three years. My last day, I walked around my apartment with my friend Robbie. He was sticking around for a few more months, but a lot of the people I knew had already left or were in the process of leaving. maybe that made it easier for me to leave. Or maybe I was just burnt out from work and failed relationships and was ready for something new. I don't remember crying. Even though I still knew a lot of people in the city and felt very established there, it felt like the right time to move on.

I left Portland, OR in 2009 after almost two years. The night before I left, my friends threw me a going away party. We made dioramas out of shoe boxes, watched Bloodsport, then went to a bar I frequented often to drink absinthe for the first time. The next day I packed up my stuff and said goodbye. There was a lot of crying this time for me. Part of it was because maybe I wasn't ready to leave this time, like my time in Portland hadn't run its full course. Or perhaps I'm just getting older and the lack of stability in my life is now catching up to me, making me feel lost and tired.

Now I'm back on my native soil, in my new apartment in Newark where my roommates seem nice but keep their doors closed all the time and do not seem like the type who want to have impromptu ukulele jam sessions. That's okay. As Nate Dogg says, "hope you're ready for the next episode."

breaking news, added a half hour after original post:

I just took my first shower in my new apartment and found out my roommate also uses Selson Blue shampoo! I'm gonna be okay after all.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

summer jams

It doesn't matter how expensive gas becomes because people will still drive cars. There's few experiences more relaxing than driving a car at night in the summer, windows rolled down, without any real destination or estimated time of arrival. It makes you remember a time when you could say, "Give me $5 of regular," and that would last the week.

Summer lends itself to long drives and big changes (everyone i know seems to move away in the summer) so it's understandable that the songs playing during the summer are more memorable. Here's a list of the songs that dominate the last ten summers for me.

1999: Break Stuff - Limp Bizkit

This isn't a year any of us should be proud of us. Sure, you can blame the music industry, but really it's our fault that Ricky Martin became so big. I'm not proud of the songs I was humming back then, especially this one.

2000: Gnome Enthusiast - Clutch

I can't really remember which earworm had infected me that summer, I had gotten the Clutch album, Jam Room, from my sister that year. Usually I hate when a metal band goes soft, but Clutch just gets better and better each year.

2001: Whenever, Wherever - Shakira

It was easy to think after first seeing this video that Shakira was not a human being at all, but a family of highly intelligent, well trained snakes taught to move in synchronization.

2002: Complicated - Avril Lavigne

She was almost 18 when this video came out, so that made it a little less creepy that I stayed up until 3am hoping it would play on MTV during this summer.

2003: Remix to Ignition - R. Kelly

Can you separate the love of an artist's work from the artist as a person? Roman Polanski fans have asked themselves the same question for years. You don't have to like R. Kelly as a person. That doesn't change the fact that this song is incredible.

2004: Tipsy - J-Kwon

Many of you would have guessed that this summer would have been dominated by Outkast's "Hey Ya!" But, that song had been in such heavy rotation throughout the winter that by the summer of 2004, it was time for another hit jam. And, I'm just a sucker for songs that involve counting. It keeps my math skills sharp.

2005: Mr. Brightside - The Killers

This was a tough year to decide. I really don't remember a song that stuck out from that summer. But I do remember this Killer's song stuck in my head a lot, especially because of its delightful tongue in cheek rhyme scheme

Now I'm falling asleep
And she's calling a cab
While he's having a smoke
And she's taking a drag
Now they're going to bed
And my stomach is sick
And it's all in my head
But she's touching his... chest?

They got you! They got you good!

But anyone can call me out and say that I was singing Kelly Clarkson's "Since You've Been Gone" much more.

2006: Stars are Blind: Paris Hilton

Make any joke you want. Doesn't matter how untalented you think Paris is. She's smart. She got someone to write her a song that sounds just like The Tide is High by Blondie with the same catchy, upstroke, reggae guitar rhythms that made ska so popular in the 90's.

2007: Beautiful Girls - Sean Kingston

The first song I learned on the ukulele.

2008: Bubbly - Colbie Callait

I don't remember many songs from this year and that's not surprising because I didn't have a car that summer. Despite the lack of competition, it's a cute, vapid song which is perfect for summer time.

2009: The Fixer - Pearl Jam

Here's a surprise. I'm not a big Pearl Jam fan, but I do love elongated vowels. Just ask the Big Bopper.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

be honest... I look more like Wolverine or Bram Stoker's Dracula?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

no experience unnecessary: caretaker for morbidly obese man

It's 2am, August 5th, and I've finished my last day with Northwest Airlines. It went okay--I fucked up a bit by switching someone's seat accidentally--but, no real harm done. How many of us, like Rocky Marciano, can retire perfect? Nineteen months with the job and I think I did well enough, all in all. There have been jobs where I've really just divebombed, and this wasn't one of them.

When I saw the last flight I would ever work leave down the runway, I pumped my fist in the air, gave everyone a goodbye hug, and put a Century 21 For Rent sign on my locker. Another chapter complete.

By month's end, I'll be back in JerZ and searching through Craigslist Jobs once again. I'm not the most confident person. I don't have faith in my ability to pick up girls at a bar or my jump shot, but for some reason, I have the utmost confidence that I can do any job in the world.

Oooh! Shoe Cobbler wanted! I'd be perfect for that!
Make Up Artist for Pornos! Just hand me the tweezers!

Don't get me wrong. I've been turned down for plenty of jobs, even jobs for which I felt well qualified. Doesn't matter. I'll be searching online for a new gig to pad my stats. So far, my resume looks something like this:

Dishwasher for a Nursing Home
Food Critic for Local Paper
Karate Instructor
Waiter at Indian Restaurant
2000 US Census Taker/Crew Chief
Lab Technician
Garden Coordinator
Freelance Journalist
Program Coordinator for Deaf/Blind Youth Interest Group
Caretaker for Morbidly Obese Man
Mad Science (TM) Instructor
Camp In Instructor at Science Museum
Job Coach/Teacher's Assistant
Special Education High School Teacher
Package Handler for FedEx (TM)
Japanese Cook
Customer Service Agent for Airlines

A few months ago, I was at work on my computer and my coworker asked me what I was doing.

"Just updating my resume. You know how that is," I said. I probably threw in some generic "with this job market, you never know" kind of joke, ha ha ha, wink wink. This was before I had made it public that I was leaving Northwest Airlines.

"No, actually, I don't. I've never written a resume," she said. She's been in the job 30-40 years. That's longer than my life span.

Some people stick with a company their whole lives. They know everything about their job. Their coworkers throw them huge 25th anniversary parties. They make friends and feel secure.

Then, there's me. I don't even know the names of all of my coworkers. That's sad. I'm never around long enough to really get good at anything, to really make an impact. I get restless and I move on.

But, if anything, I get good at interviews and I gather a list of experiences that will serve me in some positive way, I hope. If nothing else, I get a funny story out of it.

Which brings me to the actual point of this blog. I'll try to write what i can rememeber about each of my previous jobs in an ongoing series called No Experience Unnecessary. Hopefully, they will not all be as long as this one.


Caretaker for Morbidly Obese Man

Soon after graduating college, I moved from JerZ to Baltimore, MD. But my job there as an AmeriCorps volunteer was only a one year contract. I had broken up with my girlfriend who lived in nearby Delaware and all my friends in Baltimore were also AmeriCorps volunteers for one year and were all dispersing. So I had no reason to stick around and began figuring out where to move next. A very long list was shortened to Boston, Alaska, and Key West.

My friends, Ross and Adam, both AmeriCorps volunteers, were planning on doing a second year of service in Boston and were trying to recruit others in our Baltimore clique to come along. I was hesitant because I moved out of New Jersey because I didn't like the cold. I'm no cartographer, but even then I knew that Boston was north of NJ and therefore even colder.

For a while, I was fascinated with the idea of moving to Alaska and working on a fishing boat. I know what you're going to say: Armin, Alaska gets cold occasionally, too. Alaska just sounds so badass, so the cold would have been a cool thing to suffer through, not like the prissy, yuppie cold of Boston where I had to wear my Uggs every day and hope they wouldn't get salted on too much.

This was before the Discovery Channel show, Deadliest Catch, came out, so I was pretty naieve about how difficult it would have been to work in the Arctic Ocean. Again, I have an unwavering confidence in my ability to do any work, that is, until I actually have to do it. It's more a matter of having an active imagination. I can picture myself enjoying any job.

I had believed all those rumors about jobs in Alaska, how they were just dying to find people to work and would pay them a shit load, and how you could work for six months and take the next six months off because you could make that much money in that short amount of time.

Well, it turns out much of that wasn't true. I went so far as to call a charter boat owner who ran trips for tourists to catch salmon. But, there weren't any jobs for me, which is probably a very good thing because otherwise, I would have been decapitated by broken cable on the first episode of Deadliest Catch.

I was really hoping to move to Key West, Florida. I had visited a friend in Ft. Lauderdale earlier that year and we drove down there for a night. I had this incredible feeling of excitement the whole time. I hooked up with a 40 year old narcotics officer named Karen in a club while dancing to Jessie's Girl, watched the sunset on Mallory Square, and ate conch and key lime pie. It was a great time. Add the fact that Hemingway did a lot of writing down there and it was a great fit for me. I pictured myself working, writing on the side, then fishing and frying up my catch for dinner. I pictured rum drinks in coconuts and never having to wear anything more formal than a beater. It was an idyllic reverie.

I had applied for a position on Craigslist seeking a live in assistant for a woman with Alzheimer's in the Keys. The job didn't pay much, but rent was free and i would have had every other week off. I didn't hear back for a long time and eventually, I was tired of waiting and agreed to move to Boston.

No more than a week after making my decision, I got a call from the daughter of the Alzheimer's woman asking me if I was still available. I haven't thought about this in a long time, but I wonder what would have happened had I moved to the Keys instead of Massachusetts. I probably would have taken up the ukulele and started dreading my hair. There's no future in that.

So when I moved to Boston, I secured a job as a caretaker for a morbidly obese man, Johnny. He was about 400lbs and had lost a leg to diabetes. He needed help with daily living tasks including hygiene. He asked me over the phone if I had any issues with sponge baths. Of course not, I thought. I can do anything. He also told me he was gay and asked me if I had a problem with that. Of course not, I thought. I've seen the movie Birdcage.

My responsibilites were driving Johnny to McDonald's for breakfast, wiping his ass when he took a shit, sponge bathing him, making sure to scrub hard in all the nooks and crannies and being careful not the pull at the catheter when I wiped down and powdered his nether regions, spreading testosterone cream all over his acne ridden back, and helping him put on his prosthetic leg so he could do his daily exercise of two laps up and down the hallway.

We took trips to KMart and he would carry a gun in his waistband of his fat man sweats as I pushed him in a wheelchair. He said he used to be a detective and was just in the habit of carrying it. You know, like how contruction workers forget to take off their hard hats in the shower. Just habit.

Also, Johnny told me a friend of his would come over and let Johnny "do things" to him, then would hit him up for money or take his social security check. Thankfully I wasn't around when this was happening, but i did meet the slimeball. He had very creepy eyes and didn't smile at me.

I lasted two weeks in the job. And to be honest, I didn't quit because I was grossed out or because he told me he wanted to marry me after I cooked him pasta one afternoon. I had just realized that in two weeks, I learned everything I was really going to learn from that job. I could picture myself bathing him every day and I wasn't disgusted by the thought of it, just bored. I lied to him and told him I needed to find a new job that provided health insurance.

I thought he would tell me interesting stories about his life as a PI that I could steal for my own fiction. But he was actually pretty boring. When I wasn't scrubbing, powdering, or medicating some region of his body, I was doing the most boring tasks like helping him rearrange his clutter or taking him to the store for lightbulbs. Another issue for me was knowing that I wasn't really helping him get better. Maybe if I thought I was going to save him and he was going to lose two hundred pounds with my support and discipline, I would have felt that I was accomplishing something. But, really I was just helping him survive until mercy allowed him to die. Driving him to McDonald's every morning made me feel like i was Kavorkian.

Also the only thing to drink in his house was Shasta which I find disgusting. You would think that my brief time with Johnny would have warned me to live a healthier lifestyle, but here I am staying up till dawn writing, drinking PBR and eating Last Call Jalpeno Poppers flavored Doritos. Maybe I should start looking for my own care taker now. One who knows how to be gentle but firm when cleaning a testicle.

Monday, August 3, 2009


Are you in control of your own life? There are some in this world, who like ancient Norseman, use a combination of their genius, muscle, and sheer will to navigate this hostile world to progress in a direction that they predestined for themselves. Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Kelly Clarkson, those two dogs and cat in the Incredible Journey... just to name a few.

Then, there's me, less a Nordic explorer and more the blob of blue-green algae the Noresman floated over as they sought their destinies. My movement through this world is dictated by currents, tides, and El Nino. If you are a gelatinous mass of algae like me, you tend to attribute and blame all things on luck and the randomness of the universe, because you aren't willing to grow a method of locomotion for yourself.

To be fair, I've had plenty of good luck. While people lament the unemployment rate, I've never had an issue finding a job, even if it meant loading boxes at 3am or burning myself making tamagoyaki. But, when your accustomed to drifting about and not taking the measures necessary to control the factors of your life, you're going to run into some bad luck every now and then. For me, it always comes in the form of a car.

I bought my first car in 2001. It was a Chevy Corsica that cost me $2000. I didn't need a car at the time. I was a junior in college and had no reason to leave campus. If you have ever seen Trenton, NJ, you'd agree. But, I wanted a car because the second Rob Zombie album was coming out and no one could drive me to the music store. A friend of mine eventually gave me a ride to the local record shop, and even though the album sucked, it was a realization of how trapped I was without a car. I enlisted my dad's help, he did some research, and found me a car in southern Maryland which he drove down to get for me.

I don't think any single purchase in my life has made me more excited than that Corsica. At the time, I was wooing a girl named Melissa who lived off campus in a condo in Yardley, PA. The first night I had the car, I decided to surprise her by showing up at her place and taking her out on a date. Of course, blue green algae that I am, I didn't find out what apartment number she was, and since this story predates my having a cell phone, I had no option but to frighten a woman in the condo complex as she was entering her home and beg her to use her phone because I was "trying to impress a girl." As if a Chevy Corsica has ever impressed a girl. Still, I was thrilled with the car.

The car accompanied me the first time I ever moved, taking me and all my belongings to Baltimore, MD, then a year later, to Boston, MA. In 2004, my relationship with the Corsica had soured. I had been rear ended that winter by a woman driving an SUV much too large for her to control in Massachusetts sn0w. Being a nice guy, I took down her info, but didn't worry about getting my car fixed since the only damage sustained was the parking light. Big deal.

December 23rd of that winter, I was back in NJ driving late at night when a policewoman pulled me over for my broken light. I showed her my registration expecting a warning. Much to my surprise, my registration had been suspended. The car was still registered in Maryland and before I moved to Boston, I received a notice saying i needed to take the car in for emissions testing at around fifty bucks. Like the gingerbread man, I thought they'd never catch me. Stupid.

My car was towed around 11pm and I walked eight miles home. The policewoman was very nice and asked me if there was anyone who could pick me up. "No," i said, brusquely even though there were plenty of people I could have called. I just wanted her to feel guilty for impounding my car because I was too stupid to get a fifty dollar emissions test completed.

After much money, a court appearance, and then more money, I eventually got the car back. In the springtime of 2005, though, there was no pressure left in the brakes and I was too fed up with the car to deal with it anymore. I abandoned it at work, hoping I could walk away from it. Non profit organizations didn't even feel it was worth the tow. I ended up selling it to some shady Russians for $200. Could I have spent $10 bucks on brake fluid so I could get it to a mechanic to see how much a repair would cost? Probably. But once I'm frustrated about something, it's all over. There is no reasoning left in my brain. If I were a parent, I would abandon my child the first time he refused to eat broccoli.

My second car was a '99 Ford Escort. Unlike my first car shopping experience, a car was now a real necessity for me and no one was helping me find a car, save my roommate Mandy who drove me from dealership to dealership. After three days of very rushed car shopping, I found my new whip, which, in the end, was destined to be an even more painful experience than the Corsica.

At the dealership, a college aged girl and her father were looking at it before me. I was hovering like a scavenger bird, hoping they'd leave the baby blue carcass of this car for me to swoop upon. The girl walked around it once and immediately moved on to a cute, red Jetta. Her dad said to me, "She doesn't like it because of the graffiti."

He pointed out that the passenger side had been keyed with the words "F U Luis." Without punctuation, it wasn't clear whether the previous owner of the car was named Luis or whether the vandal was Luis, as in

"F U.



Regardless, my heart started beating faster. This was my dream car, but I had to play it cool. It was time to haggle. Even though Lady Gaga was still three years from stardom, I was channeling her poker face.

"How much for this here automobile, Mr. Car Dealer?"
Not even bothering to take the cigarette out of his mouth he said, "Three thousand five hundred."
"How about $2500?"
"That's fine. Three thousand five hundred sounds very fair for a great car like this."

So after paying for the car with a horrible financing deal and a warranty I did not need, I was back on the road. The Escort lasted from 2005 until 2008 when, in Portland, OR, it just refused to start anymore, despite multiple battery and connection changes. I donated it to a non profit who promised me it would be fixed up and donated to a family who would really benefit from it. But, during tax season when I tried to determine how much I could deduct for it, I found out that it sat in a lot all winter covered by the unusually heavy snow of 2008, affectionately called Snowpocalypse by the wusses here in Portland. The Escort would not become anything more than scrap metal. A sad way to end for a car that was loyal. It's like how your aging golden retriever inevitably becomes dinner that one day that you are too lazy to walk to 7Eleven to buy taquitos. I know you've all been there.

Some of the worst horrors I suffered with this car were alreay documented in a previous blog post. However, I think the saddest moment happened right after I moved from Boston. It was june of 2007 and I was cleaning the classroom where I had taught high school special education for two years. In the refrigerator was an open gallon of whole milk we used for cooking class. I put it in my trunk and locked my classroom for the last time.

Let me first explain to you that I am lactose intolerant. I am not good company if I've had dairy. Moreover, I don't even like the taste of a glass of milk, so I'm not entirely sure why I saved the gallon of milk except for the fact that I hate wasting food. I drove back to my apartment and found the milk had spilled in my trunk. I dried it up the best I could, which of course means, not very well at all.

The next day temperature was in the nineties. The day after that was also in the nineties. I do not have a good sense of smell, but knew there was something wrong by the third day. I opened the trunk and removed the carpeting to find the milk had seeped all the way into the spare tire well.

I was a chemistry major in college and though I've forgotten most of everything I learned for that BS, I do know that the matter cannot be created or destroyed and that spilling milk is not a chemical reaction. Therefore, there's really no excuse for my not realizing that a few paper towels probably did not soak up one gallon of milk.

There were grey curds rotting in my spare tire well and the stench infused my back seat upholstry as well. I tried a variety of home remedies:vinegar, sprinkled baking soda (which turned brown sitting in my back seat), orange and lemon wedges. Unfortunately, all that accomplished was making my car smell like vinegar, citrus fruits, and rotten milk. It was never the same.

After the Escort was towed away, I took a break from car ownership as a jilted lover will take a break from dating. It was the era of a New Armin, one who was so Portland, he didn't even need a car. Between March 2008 and May 2009 i relied on my feet, my Trek, and Trimet public transportation to get me everywhere. In the end, I realized none of my shoes are comfortable, I don't like biking nearly as much as you'd expect for someone who biked cross country, and that I'm that jerk east coaster who doesn't want to talk to strangers on the bus.

However, I probably would have gone on without a car, because blue green algae doesn't often try to change the course they are on. My mom stepped in though, and with $7000 worth of help from her, I returned to the trusted GM company for a Chevy Aveo. Some of its more impressive features include an AM/FM radio (no CD player or tape deck), manual roll down windows so you can get a little forearm workout into your daily commute, and enough horsepower to make the girls' panties melt off. How much horsepower is necessary to reach the melting point of panties, you ask? I already told you that I've forgotten most of my chemistry.

So welcome Chevy Aveo, 2009-?. You can start placing bets for how long it'll take me before I'm stranded in Wyoming again. Here's a picture of me posing with it in the most effeminate way possible. It reminds me of the cephalothorax of some crustacean. Or a big, blue choad.